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OPINION: Breakthroughs in video transport

Race toward high-resolution formats is driving extreme transfer performance and processing power, outlines Michelle Munson, CEO and co-founder Aspera, an IBM company

Today’s broadcast and media industries are undergoing rapid, yet fundamental transformations. These are driven by the demand for global inter-networked content supply chains, the rise in large digital data due to ultra-high resolution formats, and the gargantuan volume of data that needs to be analysed to constantly create and deliver improved viewer experiences. In a nutshell, there is an explosion in volume and quality.

Media companies urgently need to deploy solutions that allow them to quickly exploit the most cost-effective, profitable and secure placement of their content on a global scale. These fundamental changes are made possible by the growth in commodity internet connectivity and the wide availability of vast, cost-effective cloud infrastructure. However they also require flexible, easy-to-deploy, scalable software innovations to facilitate fast, efficient workflows and satisfy viewer demand for live content on any device.

Live and near-live streaming of broadcast-quality video content over IP networks with low start-up delays and glitch-free experiences has traditionally required expensive, specially provisioned infrastructure: live satellite feeds from the streaming source or dedicated terrestrial networks with high quality of service to ensure low latency and packet loss to maintain high playout quality. At both ends of the spectrum — broadcast-quality ingest and remote playout, and consumer web streaming — media companies pay a heavy premium to minimise network round-trip time and packet loss.

The ability to deliver high-resolution video over commodity internet is an industry breakthrough. It’s not just a fast and secure path for delivering high-quality content to viewers. It’s a way to collect and process a live data stream in highly scalable cloud computing and clustered file systems from ‘any’ location, enabling realtime data processing such as simultaneous, live transcoding for immediate delivery to multiple viewing platforms.

As media companies create more high-resolution content with shorter turnaround times, high-frequency content sharing across organisations is critical. Yet to date, media companies have had to build their own piecemeal solutions to the file exchange problem, including managing their own file exchange software on their own cloud and on-premise systems. This results in constant struggles to increase transfer throughput and storage capacity to meet user needs, to support ever larger formats even within the cloud, to achieve security within and between media organisations, and to keep up with the demands of shrinking production cycles.

Aspera Files is a single software-as-a-service offering that allows any media organisation of any size to establish a branded web-based presence for fast, easy and secure exchange of file-based media content between end users. Content can be stored and accessed in multiple cloud and on-premise storage systems.

Next-generation file transport technologies are now capable of performing single-stream WAN transfers at well over 60 Gbps, and transferring very large sets of small objects and files at the rate of one million items per minute. Looking to the next two to five years, we’ll continue to see performance gains in single transfer speeds, per file processing, and architecture to serve the Terabit-per-second and Exabyte workflows that media industries will no doubt require.